Friday night was the debut of the all-new, new-look, Blue Jacket-affiliated, highly hyphenated Lake Erie Monsters. The youngsters traveled to Upstate New York to take on the Rochester Americans in their American Hockey League regular-season opener, and the results were something less than what Coach Jared Bednar and the boys would have wanted.
The Monsters gave up three goals in the first 12 minutes of the game and eventually fell to the Amerks, 6-3. On the plus side, Lake Erie battled back to forge a 3-3 tie through two periods before surrendering a three-goal Rochester barrage in the third.
Anton Forsberg took the loss in net, stopping 18 of 23 shots, but by all accounts he was often left to his own devices by a defensive corps that played a bit unevenly on the night.
Enough of the negative, though. There were a few things that boded well for Bednar's squad going forward:
- The fact that they battled back to tie things up on the road in front of a raucous opening night crowd. Credit the veteran leaders on the team for keeping the Monsters' collective heads in the game despite the early deficit.
- The fact that Lake Erie possessed the puck for long stretches and created scoring opportunities.
- The fact that they got shots on the net. The Monsters outshot Rochester, 38-24, and while not all of those shots were of the high-percentage variety, the only way to score is getting the puck to the goal.
- The fact that they went a solid 2 for 4 on the power play, with goals by captain Ryan Craig and defenseman Dean Kukan.
Sandwiched in between Craig's and Kukan's goals was an even-strength tally by Markus Hannikainen (NOTE: I did not have to look up the spelling of Hannikainen's name. This is easily the greatest thing I'll accomplish all day.) Hannikainen buried a shot from the high slot just 1:42 into the second period to cut the Rochester lead to 3-2.
The other stat sheet standout was center Alex Broadhurst, who registered two assists.
The Monsters now get their longest break of the AHL season just one game into it – a full seven days – as they return to Cleveland for their home opener this Friday, October 16. It will be the first of two games in two days against the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of Minnesota, as you might imagine. The crowd should be north of 10,000 on Friday, which is significantly more than the 6,600 who watched the game in Rochester. Hopefully some energetic fans and a little home cooking will translate into a strong performance from the boys on the Quicken Loans Arena ice.
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If you have a minute, this article in Crain's Cleveland Business about the business benefits of a Cleveland Cavaliers-Blue Jackets partnership is worth your time.